Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Author Interview: Madison Wheatley

Thanks for talking with us today, Madison! Shall we dive right in? What inspired you to write Ambrosia?
Well, not surprisingly, I thought of this story while at the gym. My husband and I had recently joined a local YMCA. It was winter break, and we didn’t have much else to do, so there were days when we spent hours at the Y without intending to. Exercising was hard to start, but once I got into a “groove,” there were times I didn’t want to stop. My mind wandered a lot while I was in that state, and while running around the track, I thought, “What if I couldn’t stop working out?” So as I worked out that afternoon, the pieces clicked together for Ambrosia. I started planning a story about a girl who gets sucked into a magical gym and gradually loses her memories of the outside world. 

I think the gym is one of the best places to brainstorm—especially if you forget your earbuds. Are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story? 
Different themes will stand out to different readers. For me, though, the strongest theme in this novel is that of the consequences of burying one’s past. Crystal, the protagonist of Ambrosia, carries a load of regret and shame on her shoulders, especially when it comes to her ex-boyfriend’s death. Since his last words to her were a dig at her weight, she blames all of her pain on her body. This self-hatred is what causes her to obsess over Mount Olympus in the first place, and it’s what she must overcome if she has any hope of escaping. 

As for symbols and motifs, water is prevalent throughout the novel. I was a swimmer throughout childhood, and some of my favorite memories have involved water, so water shows up in a lot of my fiction and even some of my poetry. No surprises there. There are other symbols in the novel as well, but I’m not going to go over them. I’m an English teacher, after all, and if I start talking about symbols, before you know it, I’ll have typed a five-paragraph essay in MLA format, complete with works cited page. I’m more than happy to talk with readers about any symbolism they find interesting, though! 
We can be the same way when you get us on a subject. Let’s switch gears a little bit: who is your favorite character?
I’ve grown to love Crystal. I didn’t always feel that way. There were times I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and give her a good shake. I mean, it drove me crazy how she sabotaged her own happiness. However, beneath Crystal’s cynical exterior is an undercurrent of hope. Throughout the novel, this hope flickers and wanes, and at times, Crystal tries to snuff it out entirely. But it’s there all the same. I mentioned themes earlier, and the power of hope is another theme that ties the novel together.

I had fun writing the secondary characters, too. From Sasha—the over-excited receptionist at Mount Olympus—to Rory—the charming fitness enthusiast whom Crystal crushes hard over, each character has some little quirk that makes them fun to work with. 

Speaking of Crystal, she struggles a lot with self-confidence. Is this something you struggle with? 
Yep. I didn’t always struggle. As a kid, I had no shame; I was boisterous and rambunctious and didn’t care what anyone thought. As I transitioned into my teenage years, though, things changed, as they often do for teens. For a variety of different reasons, I became hyper-aware of myself. The opinions of my peers meant a lot to me, and it seemed that no matter what, I couldn’t seem to measure up. I was anxious, bigtime. 

I’d like to say that that anxiety has gone away, but it hasn’t. I’m working on it, though, which I know is something a lot of people my age can relate to. Crystal has gone through a lot of issues that I haven’t experienced, but her insecurity? I get that. Writing Ambrosia didn’t “fix” my self-confidence issues, but it did help me to explore them, which was cathartic in its own way. I hope that it will do the same for readers. 
We hope it can do the same for the readers, too! The gym is named Mount Olympus, and they have a drink called Ambrosia. Do you have a love of Greek mythology?
I find mythology in general fascinating; it’s something that my husband—a huge history and mythology nerd—love to bond over. Before I wrote Ambrosia, I didn’t intend to reference Greek mythology as much as I did, though. At first, only the concept was connected to it; the story was loosely based on the tale of the Lotus-Eaters in The Odyssey—an account of how Odysseus’s men were entranced by a magical flower that kept them from wanting to leave the island where it bloomed. But then, one thing led to another. I thought, “Ambrosia is a good name for this magical beverage.” By that point, naming the gym Mount Olympus seemed like the perfect way to tie it all together. 

That certainly does tie it all together. Tell us, who are your favorite authors? 
First, let me get a little nostalgic. As a teenager, I devoured novels by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. They instilled in me a love of thrillers, and without them, I’m sure I wouldn’t have written Ambrosia in the first place. 

Throughout adulthood, there have been many authors that have inspired me as a writer, authors whose work boasts complex characters and strong themes. Some examples include Neil Gaiman, Blake Crouch, Tomi Adeyemi, Toni Morrison, Patrick Ness, and Gillian Flynn. 

Last question, and we’ll go ahead and wind this down. What can we expect next from you?
I’m working on a modern fantasy novel. It tells the story of a naiad-like creature—here I go again with Greek mythology!—from another universe who’s trying to learn the truth about her magical origins. I’m currently in the pre-writing stage, and I’m looking forward to knocking out a full draft during NaNoWriMo 2019! 

That sounds really interesting; we’re looking forward to it! Readers, don’t forget to join us for the launch party this Saturday for an opportunity to win a free print copy of Madison’s book!

If you can’t wait, you can get your copy here.


By Madison Wheatley

Two words have haunted Crystal for years: fat pig.

So when a handsome and athletic stranger promises that his gym will change her life, how can she say no? With its cutting-edge facilities, beyond-friendly staff, and endless free samples of Ambrosia, their signature energizing sports drink, Mount Olympus seems too perfect to be real—and maybe it is. Crystal needs it all, but is she willing to lose more than just weight?

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